Veronica Mars (2014)

Veronica MarsNearly ten years after leaving Neptune and amateur sleuthing behind to become a hotshot lawyer in New York City, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is summoned back by an ex-boyfriend under investigation for a murder he claims not to have committed. This doesn’t sit too well with current squeeze Piz (Chris Lowell), but he lets her go on the proviso that she return in time to meet his parents in a few weeks’ time. Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) — a Lieutenant in the US Navy, randomly — is accused of murdering Carrie Bishop (Andrea Estella, replacing Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester ), a famous singer who they both went to school with. At first Veronica pursues Ruby Jetson (Gaby Hoffmann), an obsessive fan who also has eyes for Logan. She later begins to suspect ties to another death, that of Madison Sinclair, who went missing at sea while partying with fellow classmates Dick (Ryan Hansen), Gaia (Krysten Ritter) and Cobb (Martin Starr). Meanwhile, her private investigator father (Enrico Colantoni) is looking into police corruption.

Although vastly different mediums, television and cinema have never been mutually exclusive when it comes to storytelling. Movies have spawned television shows (Agents of SHEILD being a prime example), while televised serials have also infiltrated cinema, often to different ends. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut allowed Trey Parker and Matt Stone to hit back at the censors, The X-Files: Fight The Future gave Chris Carter the budget he needed to invade the planet and Serenity offered Joss Whedon the chance to end Firefly on his own terms. Veronica Mars — which was also cancelled by its studio — fits a similar mould to Serenity (more so than, say, Sex and the City, which felt like more of an indulgence on the part of its cast), and show-runner Rob Thomas seems to be trying to tie up loose ends from his short-changed series.

Where Veronica Mars is unique, however, and inherently different from every other little- to big-screen adaptation, is in the means by which it secured its funding. Whereas most fanbases will sign petitions or write to studios begging for further adventures for their beloved characters, Mars‘ fans actually paid for the privilege. You see, Veronica Mars was — at least in part — Kickstarted by its fans, meaning that Thomas was in something of an unprecedented position; no longer under pressure to appease a profit-driven studio (in this case Warner Bros., who only covered a small percentage of the overall costs), but to give fans the ending that they had waited nearly a decade to see, and had actively financed. But what artistic merit could such fan-service ever hope to have? And why should anyone unfamiliar with the show feel compelled to watch it?

These are questions that the film never really answers. While not completely closed to newcomers, Thomson’s movie clearly has other priorities. He employs a lengthy and recurring voice over which may well be an affectation of the franchise itself but comes across as a clumsy attempt to contextualise the characters and their convictions for anyone new to the world of Neptune, California. Mars makes for a likeable enough protagonist — she’s feisty and formidable — but she’s difficult to get to grips with. There are references to past traumas — an alcoholic mother, a murdered best friend and an unsolicited sex tape — but these never seem to weigh all that heavily on her mind. While a number of plot points may fail to land, however, most of the jokes just about find their target.

What’s most striking about the film is how dated it feels; years- rather than weeks-old. The show has been off the air since 2007, and yet, in an uncanny imitation of fandom itself, Neptune doesn’t seem to have moved on at all. Even the town’s name feels strangely old-fashioned; a bygone relic of the late-90s/early-00s where every show was set in some self-consciously titled fictional town, be it Eureka or Stars Hollow. Flashbacks to a young Amanda Seyfried and (an admittedly well-place) references to Murder, She Wrote and Buffy The Vampire Slayer are similarly disorientating, while much of the cast (Bell and Ritter aside) seem to have been brought out of cold storage specifically for filming. It’s an odd thing seeing what were once young, up-and-coming actors reunited in obscure middle-age.

It’s also a little endearing, truth be told, and may even persuade you to seek out the series itself, if only to see how exactly the premise worked on a weekly basis, across three whole seasons, or why we are supposed to be so invested in Veronica and Logan’s relationship. In that sense it plays more like a pilot than a finale, introducing all of these elements that you imagine might one day, with any luck, cohere into something quite compelling. There is at times real promise, which is a shame because Thomson and Bell should by now have had years to figure out how to deliver on it. In terms of the movie, highlights include Gaby Hoffman’s red herring, a string of increasingly surreal celebrity cameos (starting with Jamie Lee Curtis as a would-be employer) and the reunion itself, in which Veronica faces off with the sort of high school clichés you need only have a passing familiarity with American culture to fully appreciate. The best scene, however, comes towards the end, when Veronica finds herself hiding from the true killer, and texts her dad to say she loves him. It’s a nice touch.

For die-hard fans Veronica Mars may well be compulsive viewing, and is a solid is slightly superficial murder mystery that seemed in my screen at least to play well with the initiated. For everyone else, however, it’s unlikely to transcend quaint curiosity. There just doesn’t seem to be anything at stake; Mars is faced with a situation that jeopardises everything she has worked for since leaving Neptune, but when the sacrifices start they don’t really feel like sacrifices at all. Just someone pressing the reset button, encouraged by a crowd of desperate fans.

2.5-Stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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